New Delhi, 14 March, 2011 — The global support for Iran’s seven jailed Baha’i leaders is continuing as one of the prisoners begins her fourth year in detention. Mahvash Sabet – a schoolteacher and mother of two – has been incarcerated since 5 March 2008. For the first 175 days of her imprisonment, she was detained in solitary confinement. On 14 May 2008, six other prominent Iranian Baha’is were also arrested. After 20 months held without charge in Tehran’s Evin prison, all seven were accused in court of espionage and the establishment of an illegal administration, among other allegations. All the charges were denied. They are now serving 10-year jail terms at the notorious Gohardasht prison.
The recent transfer of the prisoners to harsher conditions within the jail has prompted renewed concern from individuals and agencies throughout the world. In India, over 90 prominent citizens from all corners of the country have raised their voices in a written response to the Government and leadership of Iran. “As citizens of India, a country that has rightfully prided itself in exemplifying for the world the spirit of coexistence and tolerance, we express our deep concern for the imprisoned Bahá’ís and their families” they jointly expressed. “We call upon all those who are committed to peace and justice in India to join us in petitioning the Iranian Government to immediately and unconditionally release these and other Bahá’ís who have been unjustly imprisoned in Iran” they said.
Among the diverse array of signatories to this open letter included former Supreme Court Judge, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Coordinator of Housing and Land Rights Network, Miloon Kothari, Archbishop Vincent Concesso of Delhi’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, Prof. Tahir Mahmood, former chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities, Kamala Bhasin , and 2007 recipient of the Padma Shri Award, Mrs. Tarla Dalal. This open letter was sent by Dr. Mohini Giri, former chairperson of the National Commission for Women, to the Iranian Ambassador.
In the United States, Amnesty International is now asking its members to send greeting cards for the forthcoming Persian New Year to the seven Baha’is and a number of other Iranian prisoners of conscience.
A joint statement from three major organizations last month called upon the international community to act with urgency for the release of the seven. “Subsequent transfers and worsening conditions of detention lead us to believe that the well-being and lives of the detained Baha’i leaders are at risk and their ongoing arbitrary detention places them in a clear and present danger that requires urgent reaction,” said the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Iranian League for Human Rights (LDDHI) and the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC).
In a news release issued by FIDH on 18 February, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi reminded the international community that “none of the prisoners were granted a fair trial and their continuing arbitrary detention is of grave concern.” “I call once again for their immediate release and a cessation of all harassment against the Baha’i community,” said Mrs. Ebadi, who is also a senior member of the legal team that is defending the seven Baha’is.
Minority Rights Group International (MRGI) also issued a report saying that the “scale of repression against minority groups in Iran is a central but under-reported factor in the renewed struggle for democracy” and that the “persecution of any Iranian minority is most pronounced in the case of the Baha’is.
On 23 February, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton expressed deep concern at “the persecution of Iranian citizens at the hand of their government…” “Iran’s leaders also continue to persecute ethnic and religious minorities,” said Secretary Clinton. “We are troubled by reports that, of the dozens of prisoners executed in 2011, most are ethnic minorities. At the same time, Baha’is and other religious minorities continue to be subjected to arbitrary arrests and prosecutions, harsh sentences, and unsafe prison conditions. We call on Iran to free all political prisoners and persecuted minorities…The world will continue to watch and will hold accountable those responsible for these actions,” said Secretary Clinton.